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A Look at Halo 2 Vista

Halo 2 Vista

Bungie Studios’ famed “Halo 2” has finally arrived on Windows Vista. PC gamers now have the opportunity to experience Master Chief’s epic battle against the dreaded Covenant. Will the biggest selling Xbox title of all time (over seven million copies have been sold to date) make a lasting impression on PC gamers? Microsoft is banking on PC gamers to feverishly adopt the title as gamers did nearly three years ago on the Xbox. But does this new iteration actually pack-in enough firepower for them to march in stores and purchase Halo 2?

In Halo 2, the war between the alien Covenant and the humans continue, and this time around, the game’s protagonist Master Chief is called upon to defend earth against the genocidal alien collective. Not only did Halo 2 include a solid single player campaign, but the game also took Halo’s beloved multiplayer aspect and brought it to Xbox Live. Halo 2 became an instant online phenomenon with over five million unique players embracing the feature.

Halo 2 for Vista features all of the now legendary online multiplayer maps popularized by the original release, and also comes bundled with two exclusive maps that are only available in this version of the game. Unlike the recently released “Shadowrun” for Windows Vista, gamers will not be able to experience cross-platform gaming against Xbox owners. Could a Halo 2 update for the Xbox 360 resolve this issue? Perhaps, but with “Halo 3” on the horizon, why would Microsoft even consider spending additional resources on creating a said patch?

Sadly, like the Xbox version, gamers who wish to take advantage of Halo 2 Vista’s multiplayer functionality will have to be an Xbox Live Gold subscriber, which requires gamers to pay a fee (monthly or annually) in order to access these services. Current console subscribers will be able to access these features without having to shell out extra cash. The PC iteration comes bundled with a one month trial subscription to Xbox Live Gold. Will PC gamers, who are accustomed to getting these features for free, even consider subscribing to such a service?

One of the nice things about this new version is that it includes a map editor that enables users to generate custom maps. These user generated maps will surely help Halo 2 Vista have a steady flow of fresh online content. It will be interesting to see what gamers come up with.

Visually, the game looks pretty much like its original Xbox counterpart. The slightly improved graphics stem from the fact that the game offers sharper textures, anti-aliasing and high resolution support (up to 1680 x 1050). All in all, the game’s Havok infused engine still holds up fairly well, but in the end, the visuals in Halo 2 for Vista are only mildly improved, and might not be up to current PC standards for most gamers.

The critically-acclaimed soundtrack by composers Marty O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori remains intact. The soundtrack melds instrumental symphonic music with modern day rock hooks. It is definitely one of the best video game soundtracks. As with the console version, the soundtrack is presented in a 5.1 surround sound aspect that enhances the player’s immersion into the Halo 2 universe.

Since this is a Games for Windows branded title, Halo 2 Vista offers Xbox 360 controller support out of the box. The controller option gives PC gamers the ability to experience a near-perfect console experience. In actuality, gamers who use the controller in a multiplayer environment will gain an auto-targeting functionality that might tip the scales in their favor. But with that said, there’s no better accuracy than using a mouse and keyboard combo. Using the sniper rifle has never been quicker or more accurate with a mouse.

One must wonder whether or not PC gamers are still interested in a two and a half year old title? By now, gamers who were interested in “Halo 2” more than likely ended-up purchasing the title during the original Xbox’s tenure. Microsoft’s decision to make the game a Windows Vista exclusive is also a questionable move. What incentive do gamers have by purchasing this Vista-only port? Besides the option of adding an extra 1,000 points to their Xbox Live gamertag, consumers are not likely to fork out an extra $99 (on top of the $49.99 suggested retail price for Halo 2 itself) to upgrade their setup to Windows Vista Home Basic (which has the least amount of functionality when compared to other versions of the OS). Is Halo 2 Vista doomed from the get-go? Will Microsoft eventually make the title playable on Windows XP, which still is the de-facto OS for PC gamers?

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